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The Gaither Vocal Band
Bill Gaither himself often says that the Gaither Vocal Band was formed in 1981, but it was actually formed in 1980 on the spur of the moment before a concert with the song, "First Day In Heaven." Not only did original bass singer, Lee Young confirm the date, one of their early performances of this song (with an explanation and introduction by Bill himself) can be found on the 1980 double record album, Live Across America. This arrangement is a little different than the one they eventually did on their debut album, the self titled The New Gaither Vocal Band in 1981. They chose this name because they didn't want to be restricted to necessarily 4 singers. Steve Green thought of the name because at the time he didn't want to be in a quartet .
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Lee Young left the group in 1982, and Jon Mohr was hired as the new bass singer. They then recorded the album, Passin' The Faith Along. Later, tenor Steve Green left and Larnelle Harris was hired. This group cut the New Point Of View album before Mohr left.
At this point the New Gaither Vocal Band became new, but dropped the "new" part of their name. Due to baritone becoming high for Bill and lead becoming high for McSpadden, Bill Gaither dropped to the lowest part (although they didn't call it bass at the time), Gary McSpadden was moved down to baritone and Michael English was hired as the new lead singer. Although the previous album (New Point of View) had been more contemporary than its predecessors, the album with this version of the group (One X 1) took it even further. After this album, Larnelle left and was replaced by Lemuel Miller. The group did not record an album with Lemuel before he too left. He was replaced by Imperials alumnus, Jim Murray. They cut one album (Wings) before Gary McSpadden left to devote more time to his solo career. Comedian and singer Mark Lowry was tapped to replace him. Although Lowry admittedly didn't have the natural ear for the baritone part, or the experience, he added a great voice along with his comedy and soon made their sound more smooth. First planned to perhaps be their final album their Gospel roots project Homecoming in 1991, caused most Southern Gospel fans to welcome the Vocal Band with open arms. A follow-up recording called Southern Classics cemented their relationship with fans. Jim Murray left and was replaced by Terry Franklin whose tenor voice was heard on the aforementioned, Southern Classics. Later Michael English left to focus solely on his ever growing solo career. He was replaced by Buddy Mullins, who agreed to sing with the group while concurrently remaining with his family group, Mullins & Co., which later became Sunday Drive. Despite being only a temporary fill-in, Mullins did record the album "Testify" with the group, in place of Michael English, who had initially planned to record that album with the group. Terry Franklin soon left and was replaced by yet another Imperials alumnus, Jonathan Pierce (formerly known by his first and last name Jonathan Hildreth instead of his first and middle name as he has been known since he began recording). Strengthened by the popularity of the Homecoming video series, the Vocal Band added Guy Penrod at lead, freeing Mullins to concentrate solely on his family group. After Pierce's departure, Gaither hired David Phelps at tenor. After Lowry's departure, The Imperials alumnus Russ Taff sang baritone for a couple of years. When Taff returned to solo work, Marshall Hall was his replacement. Wes Hampton succeeded Phelps in 2005.
During the 1990s and into the first few years of the 21st century, the Gaither Vocal Band mastered the art of mixing classic southern gospel with country and Inspirational styles. This gave the group a broad fan base that reached beyond the typical domain of Southern Gospel. Despite the immense popularity of the Gaither Vocal Band, they've only had two number one songs on the Singing News chart. "Yes, I Know" held the top position from July to October of 1997, as did "I Will Go On" in November of 2006. Other popular tunes by the Gaither Vocal Band include "Temporary Home," "Let Freedom Ring," "Count On Me," "The Baptism Of Jesse Taylor," and "When Jesus Says It's Enough." The group routinely performs classic Southern Gospel songs including many written by Bill Gaither and/or Gloria Gaither like "He Touched Me", "I Believe In A Hill Called Mount Calvary", and "Sinner Saved By Grace."
The GVB recorded a reunion DVD and CD at the Gaither Studios in late July 2008. All but three of the former members were there. The three who were not there were Jonathan Pierce, Terry Franklin, and Lemuel Miller.
On October 02, 2008, it was announced that long time lead, Guy Penrod, was taking a sabbatical and that former members Mark Lowry and David Phelps as well as former Crabb Family lead singer and current Spring Hill soloist, Jason Crabb would be filling in. On December 7, Reggie Smith, who normally sings duets with his wife, Ladye Love Smith, also filled in on the spur of the moment, as a concert in Hampton, Virginia, was rescheduled, and neither Lowry, Phelps, or Crabb could be there.
On, January 13, 2009. Bill Gaither released on his website that Guy Penrod and Marshall Hall would be leaving the Gaither Vocal Band. Penrod was going to focus on his solo career. Instead, the Vocal Band would bring back some members of the past including Michael English as lead vocal, Mark Lowry as baritone and David Phelps as tenor.
The Gaither Vocal Band - Complete List of Group Members
Bill Gaither, Baritone (1980-85); Bass (1985-present)
Lee Young, Bass (1980-1982)
Steve Green, Tenor (1980-1983)
Gary McSpadden, Lead (1980-1985); Baritone (1985-88)
Jon Mohr, Bass (1982-1985)
Larnelle Harris, Tenor (1983-1987)
Michael English, Lead (1985-1994);(2009-present)
Lemuel Miller, Tenor (1987)
Jim Murray, Tenor (1987-1992)
Mark Lowry, Baritone (1988-2001);(2009-present)
Terry Franklin, Tenor (1992-1994)
Buddy Mullins, Lead (1994-1995)
Jonathan Pierce, Tenor (1994-1997)
Guy Penrod, Lead (1995-2008)
David Phelps, Tenor (1997-2005); Tenor/Baritone (2009-present)
Russ Taff, Baritone (2001-2004)
Marshall Hall, Baritone (2004-2008)
Wes Hampton, Tenor (2005-2009), Tenor/Baritone (2009 - present)
Although Phelps' and Lowry's tenures listed might imply that they were in the group consistently again since 2008, the four men who filled in for Guy Penrod from late 2008 until early 2009 took turns until David Phelps, Mark Lowry and Michael English (who had not been filling in) re-joined in early 2009. As Mark Lowry had previously scheduled solo dates well into 2009, David Phelps and Wes Hampton would switch back and forth on the tenor and baritone parts.
Producers of Gaither Vocal Band Albums
Keith Thomas - 1986
Billy Smiley - 1986-1988
Lari Goss - 1990
Ken Mansfield - 1990
Cheryl Rogers - 1993
Bill Gaither - 1993-present
Michael English - 1993-1994
Guy Penrod - 1995-2008
Michael Sykes - 1993-present
David Phelps - 2003
Marshall Hall - 2008
Wes Hampton - 2008